The Untold Truth Of Pizza Hut

Whether you're a fan or not, chances are you know that Pizza Hut is kind of a big deal. The multi-billion dollar company has been around since the 1950s, when it was founded by two brothers who had to borrow their seed money from their mother to open their first pizza shop in Wichita, Kansas. In 2017, it was the the second leading pizza chain in the United States in terms of sales numbers, and has franchises all over the world. What is it about this pizza chain that makes it stand out from its competition? Some of the answers may surprise you.

A Pizza Hut pizza was one of the first things ever sold on the internet

It's rare today that someone will actually call a pizza place to order a pie for delivery. These days, people are more likely to go online to place their order or do it straight from a mobile app. While this seems like a modern luxury, Pizza Hut has been sold online since the '90s. It was one of the first (if not the first) things ever sold on the world wide web.

Some people claim Pizza Hut just barely missed out on the honors of making the first online sale — losing by about a week to a Sting album — but they were definitely one of the first online retailers. Either way, they can boast that they were the first restaurant to offer online ordering.

They've delivered to outer space

Pizza Hut is all about firsts. They were also the first pizza chain to deliver a pizza to outer space. In 2001, a pizza was sent aboard a Russian rocket to the International Space Station. While it sounds like this would be pretty much the most expensive pizza delivery ever, it was Pizza Hut who actually paid the Russian space agency for the opportunity to deliver the first pizza to space. The publicity stunt reportedly cost the chain $1 million.

Yuri Usachov, the lucky Russian cosmonaut who received the pizza, probably didn't even get to enjoy it that much. Prolonged periods of time in space deaden your taste buds. Pizza Hut added some extra salt and spices to the pizza to give it a bit more kick, and swapped the pepperoni for salami to extend the shelf life.

There is a Pizza Hut line of perfume

There's innovation and then there's the Pizza Hut style of innovation. While the idea to launch a Pizza Hut perfume started off as a joke, Pizza Hut Canada decided to go ahead and make it because why not? People like pizza and people like perfume and so the unlikely combination was born.

The limited edition perfume launched in Canada in 2012, arriving in the United States in time for Valentine's Day 2013. The gimmick proved to be popular, though only 72 people were lucky enough to win the very limited release product. "Eau de Pizza Hut is one of the most sought-after and rarest of scents available," Pizza Hut's CMO Kurt Kane told HuffPost Food. Strangely enough, many who were lucky enough to sample the scent reported that it smelled like cinnamon rolls.

Regional offerings can be pretty creative

Pizza Hut has branched out all over the world and does its best to incorporate regional cuisine into their pizza offerings. Some of their concoctions are pretty elaborate. While some of the unique pizzas aren't too crazy, like the hot dog crust pizza in the Philippines, or Germany's macaroni and cheese flavored pizza, other pizzas can get a little wild. New Zealand's stuffed marmite crust might alienate some palates, but that's nothing compared to Japan's bulgogi pizza or Canada's poutine pizza.

While it's great that Pizza Hut pays homage to national dishes, is there such a thing as too far? Surely there are some things that just don't belong on a pizza. That's not stopping Pizza Hut in Hong Kong, though, with their thousand island seafood pizza that features a smorgasbord of toppings, including pineapple and tuna.

They offered an engagement package

What better way is there to tell someone you want to spend the rest of your life with them than with the gift of pizza? In 2012, the chain launched a $10,000 engagement package to help you pop the question... and the pizza. The package came with a ruby engagement ring to match the pizza sauce on the medium pizza that you would dive into after she (hopefully) said yes. Also included were flowers, fireworks, and a professional videographer and photographer to capture the special moment when you declared your undying love for your beloved... at Pizza Hut. How romantic!

Some pretty famous people have starred in Pizza Hut ads

Pizza Hut has pretty much the best ads ever and they have convinced some famous people to star in their commercials. The '90s saw former Soviet leader Mihail Gorbachev promoting the pizza chain, following in the footsteps of a pre-presidential Donald Trump who starred in another commercial with ex-wife Ivana Trump a couple years earlier. Modern Pizza Hut spokespeople include singer Jessica Simpson and comedian Kristen Wiig.

They created a pizza box that can also double as a projector

Pizza Hut has gotten a bit of a reputation for their advertising gimmicks. In 2015, they launched The Blockbuster Box, a pizza box that could be converted into a projector for your cell phone once the pizza was gone. In just a few steps, you could go from just having dinner to having dinner and a movie. Sadly, the innovative idea was limited to Pizza Hut locations in Hong Kong.

Pizza Hut revolutionized restaurant franchising

When Frank and Dan Carney founded Pizza Hut in 1958, restaurant franchising wasn't really a big thing. "At that time there were no courses on franchising," said Dan. "In fact, franchising was pretty much relegated to the auto business at that time. Still, it gave me the background to form my own company, and basically our own franchise agreement, which evolved over time. Today you have entrepreneurship classes, and all kinds of different courses that would pretty much give you the basic background to go into business for yourself."

The idea of restaurant franchising was so unpopular that Dan's professors at Wichita State University wouldn't let him use it as the topic of his master's thesis. Believing that the business model was the future of the food industry, Dan refused to change his topic, dropped out of school, and put his theory to work. Pizza Hut proved to be a success and when Dan went back to school a few years later hoping to finish his degree, he was told that he knew so much he'd be better off teaching the course.

They're one of the world's largest users of cheese

Pizza Hut uses a lot of cheese. In fact, they use more cheese than pretty much anyone else in the world. The company goes through 300 million pounds of cheese every year. That means that three percent of the total cheese in production in the world is bought by Pizza Hut. On top of that, they use 525 million pounds of tomatoes and 700 million pounds of pepperoni. The numbers seem a bit staggering, but Pizza Hut has more than 16,000 locations worldwide.

They built a life-sized pizza thrower

Pizza Hut developed a partnership with the pizza-loving Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in 2014. They made a lot of childhood dreams come true when the pizza chain built a life-sized Pizza Thrower just like the one Michelangelo, Leonardo, Raphael, and Donatello use to fight the bad guys. Sadly, the rotating canon did not launch real pizzas, but it was still a pretty cool part of San Diego's Comic-Con.

Pizza Hut roofs sometimes outlast the restaurants

What happens when a Pizza Hut location goes out of business? The chain is known for its iconic red roof which has an easily identifiable shape that perfectly matches its logo. Even after the pizza ovens are out of the building and another business takes over the store, it's still pretty easy to spot a former Pizza Hut. Even if the roof has been painted another color, the shape is still very recognizable, which was the goal when the Carney brothers were thinking of ways to brand their restaurant.

The blog Used to Be a Pizza Hut tracks the fate of the former Pizza Hut buildings that now house other businesses. Some are now office buildings or other restaurants, but most of them still retain the famous Pizza Hut roof. To see some of these former Pizza Huts, check out the Used to Be a Pizza Hut Twitter account.

Pizza Hut once wanted to laser its logo onto the moon

Space is truly the final frontier ... or it is, for massive corporations who are looking to expand their advertising range. After all, why do the stars and Sun exist in the first place, if not to offer a place for corporate conglomerates to exploit? At least, that appears to have been the thought process by Pizza Hut executives in the late 1990s, when they considered the utterly baffling idea of, ahem, using lasers to project its logo onto the Moon (via The New York Times).

Now, it's unclear whether Pizza Hut intended to permanently etch its logo onto the Moon's surface, or simply project the image using Earth-bound lasers. Either way, after the astronomical costs were discussed — and the fact that the logo would need to be larger than the state of Texas to be seen from the planet — it was scrapped in favor of something simpler. Well, simple by comparison, since it still involved placing a 30-foot tall ad on the side of a launched rocket during the construction of the International Space Station in 1999.

The company's space adventures didn't end with a rocket-adjacent advertisement, though. In 2001, the company provided a small salami pizza to residents of the I.S.S., which earned the restaurant the honor of having "the world's first pizza to be delivered to and eaten in space," as stated by then-chief marketing officer of Pizza Hut, Randy Gier (via

The first Pizza Hut opened in 1958

It seems fair to assume all business owners hope to prosper and succeed — no matter how big or small their champagne wishes and caviar dreams may be. Pizza Hut co-founders Dan and Frank Carney were no different, being driven initially by a desire to work for themselves when they borrowed $600 from their mother to start the first Pizza Hut in Wichita, Kansas in 1958 (via Pizza Hall of Fame).

Now located on the Wichita State University campus — and open to the public as the Pizza Hut Museum as of 2022 — the original Pizza Hut found success behind the decision to offer free samples to potential customers. Since pizza had yet to stake its claim in American hearts, consumers required persuasion to give the original location a chance. The gambit worked, and the brothers' signature product — which was developed from a recipe by local man, John Bender (via PMQ) — caused business to skyrocket.

Within two years, the Carney brothers had opened an additional two restaurants to satisfy enamored guests' demand, and by 1972, more than 1,000 Pizza Hut locations had been opened. The rise of Pizza Hut from a small brick building to international juggernaut may or may not have been what the Carney brothers envisioned once upon a time. But considering they chose the name Pizza Hut largely because the store's sign could only hold eight letters, it seems likely their enormous success exceeded their wildest imagination.

Customers loved the P'Zone while it lasted

When you consider pizza's prodigious popularity throughout the U.S., it's somewhat surprising that calzones have been left behind. Forgive us for channeling our inner Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott) for a moment, but the lack of love for the calzone isn't just perplexing, it's a downright travesty. And even when consumers are gifted with a calzone option from one of the fast-casual Italian chains — like the formerly-offered P'Zone from Pizza Hut — they can't count on it remaining for the long haul.

Introduced to the world in a pre-kickoff Super Bowl commercial in 2002 (via QSR), the P'Zone (which was available in a Pepperoni, Supremo, or Meaty version) was essentially a folded-over pizza slice crimped and sealed. In other words, it was destined to be a hit with consumers, and was indeed beloved during its original nine-year run. While Pizza Hut discontinued it in 2011 for reasons we can only speculate on, it returned amidst much fanfare in 2019 as a March Madness promotion, according to People.

Alas, although Pizza Hut's then-chief brand officer, Marianne Radley, told People in 2019 the "P'Zone's comeback is something we know all fans can rally around," the celebration appears to have been short-lived. In 2021, Reddit users noted the P'Zone had already disappeared from many locations — and, as of 2022, nary a trace of the item can be found on the Pizza Hut menu.

You may be able to get beer delivered with your pizza

Nowadays, it's not exactly groundbreaking to see some place offering alcohol for takeout or delivery. After all, the practice became commonplace after the emergence of COVID-19 in early 2020, offering a lifeline to struggling restaurants throughout the pandemic (via ABC News). But it had become old hat to Pizza Hut by then, which actually began offering beer delivery several years beforehand in 2017 (via CNN).

Beginning that year, the restaurant sold select 6-packs of several Anheuser-Busch brands for $10.99 each. After a positive initial reception, the company expanded its beer delivery operation to several additional states in 2019, with Nicolas Burquier, Pizza Hut's chief customer and operations officer at the time, calling it "a game-changing lever that we'll continue to pull."

Whether or not the menu addition actually did change the game for Pizza Hut is unclear, as it appears the restaurant may no longer offer beer delivery as of 2022. Still, it's no surprise Pizza Hut would be ahead of the curve innovatively in the food and drink industry. After all, having opened its first store in 1958 — two years before its main rival, Domino's, first opened in 1960 — the restaurant may be chiefly responsible for pizza becoming the nationwide phenomenon it is today.

It once teamed up with IKEA

Pizza Hut is no stranger to unconventional promotional tactics designed to embed an image into your brain. The 2010s in particular provided a bevy of bizarre attempts to improve its notoriety, including selling a pizza box that transformed into a film projector (via The Verge), as well as a pair of high-top sneakers adorned with logos and Bluetooth, enabling one to order a pizza simply by touching the shoe's tongue (via The Street). And in 2015, it partnered with IKEA to create a table — one based on the supposed miniature white tables found atop freshly-ordered pizzas, according to House Beautiful.

What started as a collaboration to utilize the furniture store's famous meatballs on pizza quickly evolved to embrace the quirky sensibilities shared by the two companies. The Säva Pizza Table, based on what's technically known as a pizza saver (the little white plastic pieces that keep the box from touching the cheese), included instructions informing consumers the product was "ideal for when you want to order Pizza Hut" (via Design Boom).

A simpler and more modest attempt at synergy compared to some other, more ostentatious efforts, it's hard to tell whether it reaped any rewards for Pizza Hut. But according to Fast Company, the promotion proved quite successful for IKEA, which reported sales for the table were 67% greater than anticipated upon release.

It's cycled through several slogans and mascots through the years

It's fairly self-explanatory why big companies employ catchy slogans and fun mascots. After all, anything to make a strong enough impression to draw customers' attention is likely worth it — just ask Ronald McDonald or Colonel Sanders. Pizza Hut is no exception, which began its own march to national expansion behind its iconic red roof (and now-former mascot, Pizza Pete).

First introduced in 1963 (per Northeast News), Pizza Pete was plastered on everything inside Pizza Hut restaurants at the time, and used as a decoration for its exterior design. Over time, though, Pizza Pete receded from prominence, and eventually became little more than a footnote in the context of the company's history.

Pizza Pete's demise was hardly the end of Pizza Hut's attempts to immerse itself in the cultural zeitgeist through marketing promotions. Another prominent example includes a goofy string of commercials from the 1990s, "The Pizza Head Show," which starred the clay-like titular figure stuck in silly situations. Additionally, its "no one out-pizzas the Hut" slogan has become widely known as of 2022. And a previous one, "gather round the good stuff," was featured in a commercial with the Muppets during the 2004 Super Bowl, according to the book "Unbidden Persuaders" by John Doyle.

It's been featured across the pop culture realm

When a restaurant's been in business for more than half a century, it's logical to presume it's shown up in the pop cultural sphere once or twice. In other words, to say Pizza Hut has luxuriated in that arena since its inception isn't a bold statement, with it popping up in countless pop culture places through the decades.

In particular, the 1980s and '90s were a goldmine of Pizza Hut pop culture appearances and references. A crossover promotion with "Back to the Future Part II" included the restaurant selling pairs of "futuristic solar shades inspired by the movie" in 1989. Additionally, on "Friends," after Ross (David Schwimmer) bemoans the restaurant as a lackluster location for his previous bachelor party, Chandler (Matthew Perry) comes to the aid of "the Hut." And let's not forget the immortal Pizza the Hut (Dom Deluise), the disgusting "Spaceballs" villain found in the Mel Brooks comedic classic, inspired by the similarly-engorged Jabba the Hut from the "Star Wars" franchise.

Of course, the creme de la creme may be its tongue-in-cheek appearance in 1992's "Wayne's World." The famous scene shows Wayne (Mike Myers) and Garth (Dana Carvey) declaring their refusal to sell out with endorsements ... while the duo does a string of product placement mini-commercials. A brilliant satirical take, it incisively tears down those holier-than-thou celebrities who try to retain so-called street cred, yet "bow to any sponsor" that offers a massive payday.

It was very briefly known as Pasta Hut

Certainly, an attempt to rebrand is nothing new for a major corporation. These efforts can include something permanent, like Dunkin' Donuts dropping its second word, or temporary — like Pizza Hut's bizarre, brief (and potentially untrue?) attempt to rename its UK locations "Pasta Hut" in 2008 (via Marketing Week).

Surprisingly little information seems to be available regarding the legitimate details of this potential endeavor — perhaps because some, like Pizza Hut's former chief marketing officer, Hugh Wood, insist "it was supposed to be a joke," as he told Vice in 2021. Whether or not a genuine plan to rebrand in an alleged attempt to revamp its image is unclear, though the announced £100-million pound remodeling project did, in fact, result in 10 London-based locations actually changing the name.

If a lesson was to be learned regarding the necessity of being clear with the general public, the company didn't absorb it right away. After all, in 2009, Pizza Hut was forced to issue a clarifying statement in response to ad campaigns referencing itself as "The Hut" — which led to rumors (and mockery) about a supposed name change, according to CBS News.

You can show your romantic side with a heart-shaped pizza

A person lacking romantic intuition is a fairly common trope, likely because there's never been a shortage of seemingly thoughtless romantic partners in our world. Thankfully, since at least 2015, those folks lacking foresight for Valentine's Day were provided a perfect romantic solution by Pizza Hut, with its heart-shaped pizza promotion for the holiday (via Brand Eating).

While not the first pizza joint to offer a pie shaped like the popular interpretation of the human body's main muscle, the chain's entry into the veritable cottage industry dedicated to last-minute wannabe romantic shoppers was certainly a hit with consumers. Sold by itself or in a combo with a Hershey's chocolate chip cookie or brownie, the heart-shaped pizza was made with a purported secret technique only known to restaurant employees (via Yahoo).

Unfortunately, if you're looking to indulge in a heart-shaped pizza from Pizza Hut outside of February, you're likely out of luck. As the website states in July 2022, the item is "no longer available," though it's something we hope changes in the future — perhaps after the last day of January.

The restaurant's Book It! Program began in 1984

In our screen-saturated modern world, it's a bit depressing to consider the waning number of people who feel reading is a pleasurable activity. Frankly, nothing on film or television can capture the vivid detail conjured by your imagination when reading. Of course, we'd be lying if we didn't attribute at least some of our ingrained love of reading to the Pizza Hut Book It! Program launched in 1984, which rewards children for reading books with free pizza.

Running during the school year, the Book It! Program sees children set a monthly reading goal, then rewards those successful with a certificate for a one-topping personal pan pizza. Is it bribery to incentivize elementary-aged children to read by dangling the prospect of delightfully greasy pan pizza? Maybe. But in a world where folks increasingly believe the ends always justify the means, it's hard to feel guilty about any pathway to increase the literacy of kids throughout the U.S.

The Book It! Program, which continues to run as of 2022, has attracted numerous participants and fans throughout its existence. This includes former first lady Barbara Bush, who, when hosting a reading event in 1989, became the first person to order Pizza Hut delivered to the White House, having it cater the pizza party (via Chicago Tribune).

It bid adieu to Russia in 2022

In regards to surprising facts surrounding Pizza Hut's history, few may be less unexpected than the restaurant's official departure from Russia in 2022 (via Restaurant Business Online). After all, in the wake of Russia's devastating, abhorrent, and ongoing invasion of Ukraine in 2022, it's more surprising to discover a business choosing to remain in the former Soviet Republic than to leave.

But following in McDonald's and Starbucks' footsteps, the parent company of Pizza Hut, Yum! Brands, decided to sell all equipment and restaurant real estate to a local company. In July 2022, all 50 Russian stores were sold to an associate of the restaurant group, Rosinster, for a reported $4.92 million dollars (via Reuters) – officially ending the pizza giant's presence inside Russia.

A press release from Yum! Brands that month reiterated its commitment to continue pulling its business from Russian markets. After finalizing "the transfer of ownership of all Pizza Hut franchise assets" to a local restaurant group, Yum! Brands insisted it would follow that up, and soon "fully exit from Russia" once the sale of its other Russia-based chain, KFC, was completed.